Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Campaign 2000: Too Little Focus on Higher Ed

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Campaign 2000: Too Little Focus on Higher Ed

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The presidential ace is heating up, but so far most candidates are not spending much time on higher education issues.

Democrats Al Gore and Bill Bradley and Republicans George W. Bush and John McCain have been locked in heated primary debates, yet education issues are not often on the front burner.

The problem is particularly acute among the GOP.

"I haven't heard them say anything more than, `I'm for education.' But they all will have to do more than that," says Dr. Henry Ponder, executive director of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education here.

In fact, when candidates raise education issues, most talk about K-12, observers say. As a result, few have offered new proposals on higher education.

The lack of higher education attention is a cause of concern for some advocates. "We are seeing a K-12 agenda without a lot on higher ed," says J. Noah Brown, public policy director for the Association of Community College Trustees.

Among the front-runners, Gore has emphasized K-12 over higher education so far. However, he played a critical role in Clinton administration policy, which led to the creation of GEAR UP and the HOPE Scholarship, among other initiatives. Bush, though "generally supportive" of education in Texas, according to Brown, has devoted little attention to college issues while on the campaign trail. More states will conduct primaries and caucuses this month, which will help shape campaign themes heading into the summer party conventions.

Here is a summary of campaign views so far:

Vice President Al Gore, D

Gore has proposed a $115 billion education reform trust fund, and central themes are universal preschool, smaller high school classes, a higher quality of teachers and more school-construction funds. For higher education, Gore has proposed grants to high-need school districts so students can have access to Advanced Placement tests. His other higher education focus is expanded tax credits and savings accounts so families can pay for college.

On affirmative action: Gore has denounced efforts such as Proposition 209 in California and Initiative 200 in Washington state that have essentially eliminated affirmative action programs. According to a campaign statement, Gore "firmly believes that America needs equal opportunity and that our country has benefited by the strength of its diversity. …

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